Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd wanted no part of the question, cutting off the reporter as he listed UA’s turnovers and sometimes lackluster play. After all, it’s been nearly two weeks since UA was last on the court.
“Attribute to winning by 16?” Lloyd asked after Arizona’s 95-79 win over visiting Washington.
Arizona will also have to wait to get another win or at least play in a game. It was announced about two hours after the game that the Arizona-Arizona State game has been postponed due to ASU having issues with Covid.
Until then, Lloyd will give no apologies for winning.
“Guys (the media) I’ve got a lot of respect for coach Hopkins. He’s a friend of mine,” Lloyd continued. “We battled when he was at Syracuse and I was at Gonzaga. Now that he’s at Washington and I’m at Arizona. Playing against them is a pain.”
And, well, sometimes it looks like Arizona is still in the growing pains area even 13 games in. On his postgame radio show, Lloyd said he thought his team played like it “was young.”
But what Lloyd & Co., has created – blowout wins, high rankings and high expectations have now entered the building – even if the crowd at McKale didn’t. An estimated 10,000 fans were likely in the building for a rare Monday night game that started at 6 p.m.
It’s not like he didn’t witness/hear grumbles at Gonzaga where if victory does not come without a rout people wonder what the problem is.
“I’m not paying to much attention to that,” Lloyd said when I asked if he thought that was a problem here. “In those games I try to keep my head about me. I reminded the guys under the 12 (minute) media timeout I wrote plus 8 (UA was winning by that number). Let’s not panic. We don’t have to win this game by 40, just make sure we win it. Settle into the game and understand that in conference games you’re not going to win every one in a blowout. There might no be any blowouts. You gotta get comfortable in close games. I think we are getting there.
“I’m a result-oriented guy and told my staff I’m most focused on Ws and Ls. We got the win tonight and will feel good about it. Hopefully, on Saturday we will play a little better than we did on Monday.”
Arizona played well enough to move the Lloyd analytic meter up, to 12 wins against one loss. Earlier in the day, Arizona moved up one spot in the polls to No. 8.
Still, for a game that was never in doubt – Arizona led practically wire to wire – but Arizona didn’t appear to be the team that has blown out teams in majority of its opponents this season. Heck, Arizona went into Monday’s game a 24.5-point favorite. But, 21 turnovers, having a hard time defending their former teammate, Terrell Brown, and facing a 2-3 extended zone, Arizona couldn’t shake the Huskies.
“We weren’t who we usually are on defense,” said UA guard Kerr Kriisa. “We just had to play tougher, be more grittier. I think we did that in the second half.”
Arizona outscored UW by eight in the first half and eight in the second half.
Again, Arizona was fantastic sharing the ball given it had 27 assists on 33 of its makes.
But it was the turnovers that created the issues with UW.
“We knew Washington is a team that creates a lot of turnovers Christian Koloko said. “We just didn’t do a good job (with that). We have to do a better job and be poised.”
Said Kerr: “there were easily nine turnovers that (didn’t have to be there).”
Anther problem was trying to stop Brown, Jr., who was very familiar with McKale Center given he was here last year but decided to transfer after last year. He entered the game as the Pac-12s leader scorer and didn’t disappoint. He had 19 points on 8 for 11 shooting in the first half, finishing with 28 points for the night. He added eight rebounds and six assists.
“Terrell is a hell of a player,” Kerr said. “We knew that when he was here last year. But we knew we were playing Washington not (just Terrell). Terrell is a heck of a player.”
And not that they went back and forth in trading baskets, but Arizona’s Ben Mathurin was just as good – again. He finished with 27 points, going an efficient 10 for 16 from the floor.
It was his sixth game of more than 20 points. He had a thunderous dunk on an assist from Kriisa that nearly brought down the house.
“He’s learning (and) it’s so much fun to watch him learn,” Lloyd said. “I thought a little bit in the first half he was a little out of sorts with the movement of the zone. I told Murph (Jack Murphy) to go talk to him and he did a great job of listening … I’m not surprised because he’s doing it every night.”
Koloko had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Kriisa had 21 points. It was the first time three Arizona players had scored 20 or more points in a game since 2009.